Hard to believe it’s already past Labor Day. Another business year has flown by. Halloween merchandise is already in the stores and the winter Holidays won’t be far behind. And we all know what that means, right? It’s time to order your Holiday gift-giving CALENDARS! That’s right, it’s time to start thinking about ordering those corporate calendars to give away to your existing customers and potential new clients during the Holiday season. The question is: what theme should your calendar embrace? Landscapes? Golf? Unicorns and rainbows? Or maybe photos of your own products. No matter what your marketing department decides for this year’s gift-giving calendar, I’d like you to consider the following advice from the Buyer’s side of the desk . . . from someone who is on the receiving end of those wonderful calendars. Ready? Here it is: DON’T HAND OUT CALENDARS!
Hopefully I’m not too late in providing this recommendation. Hopefully your company hasn’t already dished out thousands of dollars on picturesque calendars featuring waterfalls, hot air balloons and puppy dogs with the hope of having it hanging proudly in the office or cubicle of your favorite Buyer. It is, after all, marketing’s theory that if your company’s name is staring the Buyer in the face 365 days of the year, at some point they’ll think of you when sending out request-for-quotes or when awarding purchase orders. And in reality . . . the marketing team is right! Research has shown that people do respond to advertising that leaves impressions. The best advertisements use images, jingles and stories to focus attention to their brand. Advertisers attempt to get the potential client to connect their brand name with a positive impression; an encouraging reinforcement that their products and services will bring satisfaction. That’s why your marketing department is so insistent on ordering calendars with incredible scenery, calming subject matter or leisurely pursuits such as golf.
So from the Buyer’s perspective, the problem ISN’T the fact that you’re giving me a calendar for the Holidays. The problem is that EVERYONE is giving me a calendar for the Holidays. Nearly every Sales Professional mails their clients new calendars or hands them out while visiting the client’s facility. On an average year, Buyers received dozens of calendars from the supply base, all with the intent of advertising their brand name with the hope of continued business. But consider this reality: How many calendars can I actually going to use in my office? How about . . . ONE? Oh, I might bring another calendar home for the house too, but that’s about it. And odds are, neither one of them will be the one YOU gave me. So what happens to the rest of the calendars the Purchasing group receives? One of three things will happen to them: (1) They end up in a pile on an un-used desk in the office for other employees working for departments other than Purchasing to take; (2) they end up in a box and donated to a charity group for kids or seniors who don’t normally receive calendars, or (3) they end up in trash. What a shame! What a waste of a thoughtful gift. And what a waste of marketing expenses on your company’s part! So what do Buyer’s recommend Sales Professionals bestow during the Holidays to their loyal clients and potential consumers of their products? How can a Supplier stand out from their competition and offer something they’ll be remembered by? The answer is today’s FEEBACK: Sales Advice from the Buyer’s Desk.
Step One in presenting a gift is to find out you should even do it! Many companies do not allow their Buyers (or any employee in the company) to accept gifts, lunches, outings . . . or even a pencil. Different corporations define different standards of “corporate ethics” including what a Buyer can and cannot accept. A Sales Professional should always be familiar with the client’s defined corporate ethics before offering the Buyer anything, much less a Holiday gift. Most large companies have ethics guidelines on their corporate website. Find it, read it and comply with it. If you can’t find anything about gift-giving policies on their website then ask for a copy of the “corporate ethics code” and the “supply-based ethical guidelines” from the Buyer or from their Human Resource department. NEVER tempt a Buyer or any employee within a client company with even the smallest of gifts, donation or offering if their ethics code does not allow it. Never put anyone in jeopardy of losing their job! Not only will it risk the Buyer’s employment, it will also endanger your own company in never providing product to that client again.
If you are allowed to give a gift to the Buyer per his company’s approval, then Step Two is to find out what the dollar value limitation is. If it’s $25, KEEP IT AT $25! Don’t hand the Buyer a gold-plated pen set worth $100 with a wink and a smile and tell him it’s only worth $25. Giving away a gift beyond the true value limitation is just as bad as giving a gift when NONE are allowed. In my opinion . . . it’s WORSE! Not only are you not complying with their corporate ethics guidelines, you’re also trying to pull the wool over their eyes! Once you are educated on the ethics rules and dollar value limitation, then Step Three is to rethink your strategy in the “type” of gift to present. Due to the fact that nearly every Sales Professional hands out calendars, try thinking outside the box and consider other useful office products stamped with your company name that could stay within the confines of the Buyer’s office and desk and be noticed every working day. Pens are okay but supplier’s names are usually too small on it to be noticed; and pens usually have a way of disappearing or being lost. So from the Buyer’s perspective, here are some inexpensive items you can hand out that could incorporate your company’s name; items that will be used and noticed on a regular basis by the Buyer: calculator, flashdrives, paperweight, tape dispenser, mouse pad, paperclip magnet base, office accessory valet, desk clock, portfolio, business card holder, small dry erase board, cell phone case, etc. These are ideal gifts to hand out for a number of reasons: They’re used on a weekly if not daily basis by Buyers; they’re small enough to remain on the Buyer’s desk; most would be under a minimal gift dollar value; they’re large enough to incorporate your company’s name; and most of your competitors won’t be giving these away. Check out office gift catalogs on-line for items that can be personalized with your corporate name on it. Or, simply have professional looking stickers created with your corporate name and logo and place it on the item. Either way you’re sure to make an impression with the Buyer as a thoughtful gift that won’t be given away or end up in the trash.
Step Four: Don’t Forget the Family! So many Holiday gifts handed out by Sales Professionals focus on the Buyer but miss a great opportunity to make a much bigger splash with someone more important than the Buyer, and someone who has more influence than the Buyer’s manager . . . THE BUYER’S FAMILY! Because most Sales Professionals give out calendars and golf balls, they overlook a prime market in the Buyer’s family. Find out if the Buyer is married or has kids. If they do, present a gift or gift certificate that focuses on them: certificate for a salon treatment, driving range, pizza parlor, movie tickets, household items, gift basket, etc. By giving a promotional Holiday gift to the Buyer’s family you’re secretly creating your own “sales force” within the Buyer’s own house. That’s because it will create a memorable impression that the spouse and family will never forget and, more important, THEY will never let the Buyer forget! So do something different this Holiday Season. Think outside the calendar and stand out from your competition.